Just four years ago, St. Arnold was the only (and the best) brewery in Houston. But times are changing and there are currently approximately 12 more breweries open and in the process of opening. Either drinking beer in Houston has become more popular or people are just realizing even more than ever before that "God loves us and wants us to be happy." (Benjamin Franklin).
Among the many in the progress of opening and those open one quick way of being able to taste the best of what these breweries have to offer is to attend The Texas Beer Fest, where brewers from all over the state of Texas and throughout the United States provide opportunities for sampling their beer as well as introducing their latest and greatest (or not so greatest depending on your vote).
But since The Texas Beer Fest only makes its way to Houston once a year there are three breweries in the area that you can find not only me, but in many cases a long line of other people waiting to lift a pint.
St. Arnold Brewing Company
Not only the patron saint of beers, but also the most well-known of breweries in the Houston area; it was the first brewery established in Houston and those in the Saint Arnold Army are sure it will be here for a long time to come. St. Arnold offers a regular selection of beers from browns to India Pale Ale as well as a selection of "reserves" (specialty beers) and seasonals like Oktoberfest and Christmas Ale (a personal favorite that I could drink year round.). This brewery is known for its tours, tastings, community events, special events and pub crawls as well as charitable efforts. Attend tours and tastings on: Monday - Friday 3PM with Taps open 3PM to 4PM and a tour at 3:30PM. On Saturdays people from all over the Houston area can be found in the beer hall of St. Arnold from 11am-2pm with tours at Noon, 1pm and 2pm. Admission is $7.00 and includes your tour, 4 tastings and sample glass.
No Label Brewing Company
"We don't need no stinkin' labels!" is the motto behind this family owned brewery. They are probably right. Their beer selection may be limited after only one year in production and distribution but it is popular every Saturday as people show up rain or shine or 100 degree temperatures to stand outside old rice warehouse in Old Town Katy. Tours and tastings are Free, but I would rather spend the $5.00 when I get there and buy a pint glass. Of course you can bring it back again, after all that is going "green" isn't it? I recommend bringing a cooler with food and some chairs or blankets to sit on. The atmosphere is fun, funky and borderline underground with silos towering over you. But the people are friendly and kids can play. Did I mention the beer is pretty good too? My personal favorite is the El Hefe, a Hefeweizen.
Southern Star Brewing Company
The Southern Star Brewing Company shines bright with tastings and tours on the first and third Saturday of every month in the afternoons beginning at 1pm. Pack a lunch, snacks or purchase brats, burgers and hotdogs from The Outlaw Cookers (and their burgers are delicious!). Tastings are free, but tokens are limited and you better plan on buying a pint glass from the gift shop. My personal pint glass normally contains the Bombshell Blonde, but I have to admit to a weakness for their newest brew a seasonal Walloon.
You can find Southern Star and St. Arnold in your local stores. Southern Star is distinguished by its can, no bottles there, but I prefer it on draft. No Label beers can be found on draft at a few select locations and restaurants but the opportunities to be label-less while bending your elbow are growing.
Each of the new kids in town are opening up slowly but surely in the Houston area. So far, New Republic Brewing is giving everyone a run for the taste, if not the money, and my list of beers and breweries in the Houston area to try or revisit is quickly growing.
Read more by this contributor
The DVD for Beer Historians: "Empires of Industry: Brewed in America"
Houston Hometown Beer St. Arnold: Beer Review of St. Arnold's Brown Ale a Little Nutty and a Little Tasty
Honoring Octoberfest: Beer Review of Samuel Adams Blackberry Wit